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08/06/13

Justice for Merritt Landry Meeting

“If it happened to me, somebody jumped over my fence, I live with an eight foot fence around where I live, I wake up in the morning and somebody’s inside my fence, they would be killed,” says Benjamin John.

“I know the Landry family and I know Merritt well, and I think he was 110% justified. He’s protecting his family and his property,” says Maureen Noonan.

In a crowded room in Mid-City several Marigny residents came out to show their support for Merritt Landry.

“If we can move past the racial narrative and just say New Orleanians are suffering, New Orleanians are dying, and New Orleanians are being victimized by other regrettably other New Orleanians, I think that it would put our community in a much better place,” says civil rights activist Nadar Enzi also known as Captain Black.

The ‘Justice for Merritt’ meeting was led by Captain Black and Mike Weinberger of the Home Defense Foundation of New Orleans.

33-year-old Merritt Landry faces Second Degree Murder Charges. Nearly two weeks ago police say Landry shot an unarmed teen inside his property. A neighbor says his surveillance video caught 14-year-old Marshall Coulter jumping over Landry’s fence. According to court documents Landry shot him in the head after the boy made a “thwarted” move.

“Mr. Landry violated the law when it comes down to self defense,” says civil rights activist Rev. Raymond Brown.

“I think time will tell (whether Merritt was justified in using deadly force) and the narrative will speak for itself,” says one of Landry’s attorneys Tanzanika Ruffin.

Landry is due back in court on August 23rd.

The family of 14-year-old Marshall Coulter says he is doing better, but Coulter is still in the intensive care unit, and cannot communicate.

Several local civil rights groups joined the New Orleans branch of the NAACP demanding an investigation into Judge Franz Zibilich and the initial bond granted to Marigny homeowner Merritt Landry.

“There is boiling under the surface,” says Rev. Dwight Webster with Christian Unity Baptist Church when speaking about the youth in our community, “They are beginning to wonder whether there is one code of justice that is equally applied to everyone.”

According to the District Attorney, Judge Ziblich allowed Landry to post an illegal $100,000 bond. Landry hadn’t filed the proper paperwork after being charged with Attempted Second Degree Murder for allegedly shooting 14-year-old Marshall Coulter. It’s a perk local civil rights organizations fear was done because of a previous relationship established between the Landry family and Judge Zibilich.

Civil rights attorney Tracie Washington with the Louisiana Justice Institute says, “I recognize the guy had a wife at home who was pregnant. Lots of people have extenuating circumstances. That jail is filled with people with extenuating circumstances.”

The civil rights groups acknowledged a relationship dating back to 2007 between Zibilich and Landry’s brother, Maxwell, saying Zibilich (then an attorney) represented Maxwell Landry in a federal drug trafficking case making this current case a conflict of interest and a violation of the code of ethics.

New Orleans NAACP chapter President Danatus King says, “There’s a tension in this city and if it’s not addressed properly who knows what’s going to happen.”

Danatus King recognizes tension has been escalating since the Zimmerman verdict.

Mashall Coulter’s brother even created a Facebook page called “Justice for Marshall Coulter.” His first post was an article titled: “The next Trayvon? 14-year-old Marshall Coulter Shot by White Man.”

“If tensions are escalated now, if there’s a perception in the community that justice is not going to be done in this case, then I expect the tensions to heighten,” says King.

The local civil rights organizations are backing attorney Tracie Washington’s position, calling calling on Judge Franz Zibilich to step down immediately pending an investigation.

When Marigny resident Merritt Landry shot 14-year-old Marshal Coulter late one night last week, I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad.  Happy a law abiding citizen shot an intruder; or sad another 14-year-old black kid in New Orleans is lost.

Around 2 a.m. last Friday, Landry shot Coulter in the head in his side yard on Mandeville Street.  Landry’s dog alerted him of the intruder.  Inside Landry’s house was his pregnant wife and baby daughter.

Landry claims Coulter was reaching for something when he shot him.  Coulter was unarmed.

Landry’s life would have had to be at risk for the shooting to be justified.   Obviously police that night didn’t feel it was justified, or that Landry’s life was in “imminent danger”, so they arrested him.  Landry’s lawyer feels his client will be exonerated.  And he might be right.

Even though Landry is white and Coulter is black, this isn’t a racial incident.  The questions that need to be answered are easy: Was Landry’s or his family’s life in danger?  And what about Coulter? 14 years old and out on the street at 2am?!?  How is that possible?  Isn’t Coulter’s mom somewhat responsible too?

One side of me is sad: we’ve lost another young black kid to crime.  And another side of me is glad: a homeowner took things into his own hands and shot a criminal on his property that was obviously up to no good.  A court will decide Landry’s fate.  And God will decide the critically injured Coulter’s.

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Merritt Landry walked out of the criminal court building Tuesday afternoon after posting a $100,000 bond.

Landry faces an attempted murder charge in connection with the shooting of a 14-year-old boy last week.  According to neighbors, the teen jumped the fence at the Landry family’s home in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood.

Landry initially posed the bond and was able to walk free days earlier.  But the district attorney’s office argued to a judge that the paperwork was incomplete, making the bond illegal.

Tuesday afternoon, prosecutors were satisfied with the changes made by Landry’s father, Larry Landry, that allowed property to be used to cover the bond.  Larry Landry is a former justice of the peace in St Bernard Parish; he also ran unsuccessfully for sheriff.

Merritt Landry is a city employee.  Tuesday afternoon, he avoided reporters by using a side door to exit the criminal court building.  The door is normally off-limits to the general public.  A spokesman for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, which handles security at the building, says it did not instruct or clear the way for Landry to use the side door.

Landry remains suspended without pay from his job with the city while his case works its way through the judicial system.

Last summer, after a string of carjackings and robberies in the ‘city that law and order forgot’, a fearful and racially diverse group of residents promised to ‘stand their ground’ and fight back against the rising tide of violence.

I remarked at the time that we would see just how serious these residents were about civilian self-defense when a white man shot and killed a black man.

That day has arrived in the style of NOLA homeowner Merrit Landry shooting 14-year-old Marshall Coulter.

Coulter had hopped over the Landry home’s 8-foot-tall wrought iron fence and was attempting some sort of mischief when Landry confronted him at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

According to Landry, “I approached the boy from my front yard, near my vehicle. As I grew closer, the boy made a move, as if to reach for something, possibly a weapon.”

Landry fired one shot, which struck Coulter in the head. Coulter survived but is in the hospital in critical condition.

In typical, better late than never fashion, in swoops the NOPD to press second degree murder charges against Landry, claiming their intrepid detectives have a witness who does not corroborate his story.

Really!? In a city competing valiantly for the murder capital of the country title, the police force that cannot locate the whereabouts of submerged cars wants to persecute homeowners doing that department’s job?

Coulter’s brother nonchalantly told nola.com, “He would steal. He was a professional thief, sure. But he would never pick up a gun, not in a million years.”

Ok, first of all how was Merritt Landry to know Coulter was unarmed, and second since when does being a ‘thief’ not place one outside the confines of what we call ‘law and order’?

That a life of crime, for a 14-year-old is treated like marching band practice at St. Augustine tells you everything you need to know about this epidemic of violence: it is the new paradigm, the law of the streets.

Unfortunately, citizens like Merritt Landry live under the antiquated notion of the old law and order, passed by legislators and used to be enforced, by the NOPD.

The Marigny homeowner accused of shooting a teenager outside his home was back in court Tuesday and the District Attorney threatened to send him back to jail!

The DA said the paperwork for Merritt Landry’s bond wasn’t properly done when he was released from jail Friday, but the paperwork was re-filed and Landry is free again on bond.

The teenager, 14-year-old Marshal Coulter, is still in critical condition and the case is still causing controversy.

“He didn’t know what the hell to do. He had shot into a shadow and he was scared,” says Phillip Herman.

Herman lives next door to the Landry’s. He ran outside in the middle of the night early Friday morning just seconds after hearing a gunshot.

“He was a shadow. When that shadow moved towards him he got spooked and fired,” says Herman.

Herman says Merritt Landry was hysterical and told his pregnant wife and child to stay inside.

Police say the 14-year-old was ahi in the head in Landry’s fenced in yard.

“You can’t use force unless you feel that your life is in imminent danger,” says Rev. Raymond Brown.

“You over there that is penetrating my property, you who has jumped into my yard, do you have a gun? Do you have a reference? Do you have a resume?” shouts a neighbor.

“I could have said this child was racially profiled. I’m not saying that yet,” says Rev. Brown.

Tempers flared this evening outside the Landry house on the 700 block of Mandeville Street after Trayvon Martin’s name was brought up.

Phillip Herman hopes the shooting doesn’t divide the community and believes Landry was only acting in self defense.

“They are really good people, and with the amount of crime that’s happened in this area I don’t see that they are in the wrong, even in the slightest,” says Herman.

A New Orleans city worker posted a $100,000 bond Friday and was released from jail following his arrest on an attempted murder charge.

Merritt Landry was also placed on emergency suspension without pay.  He city confirms he is a building inspector with the Historic District Landmark Commission.

Early Friday morning, police say Landry shot a 14-year-old at the Landry family’s home on Mandeville Street in the Faubourg Marigny.

Neighbors say the area is a common target for teenagers who are looking to steal money and valuable items.

“He’s a really good guy.  And I guess you’re protecting your family,” said neighbor Charley Hazouri who has a home and a business near Landry’s home.

Hazouri also has a security camera system that he says captured video of two young men — or teenagers — who were in front of Landry’s home shortly before the shooting.  According to Hazouri, one of them can be seen climbing over the fence that protects the Landry home.  Hazouri said the video was being turned over to police and he did not want to make it available to the news media because it could be an important part of the shooting investigation.

Neighbors also say someone stole Landry’s two Vespa scooters earlier in the week.  They say his lawnmower was also recently stolen.

Another neighbor who asked not to be identified also described Landry as a good neighbor.

“Good neighbor, good family man, good family,” the woman said from her front porch.  Also on her front porch — attached to her railing — was a bicycle lock that had been cut.  The woman said she’d had two bicycles stolen from her front porch.

People who live along the same block of Mandeville Street say they often see teenagers in the area during late night and early morning hours.  Earlier this year, a 16-year-old was arrested and accused of a series of armed robberies in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood.  Police were unable to catch him until one of his intended victims grabbed the suspect’s shotgun, turning the tables on him.

“14, 15 (year olds).  What are they doing out in the middle of the night?” the woman asked from her front porch on Mandeville Street.  “You can’t assume that they’re up to no good, but who knows?”

At last word, the 14-year-old who was shot remained in critical condition.  Police did not say if the teen also faced any charges in connection with the investigation.

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Merritt Landry (photo from NOPD)

(from the New Orleans Police Department) – A 14-year-old boy is hospitalized in critical condition after a shooting in the Marigny early this morning.

Investigators say 33-year-old Merritt Landry fired one shot at the teenager, who was in Landry’s front yard near his vehicle on Mandeville Street at around 2 this morning.  The teen was wounded in the head.

Crime Lab technicians located a single spent casing on the scene.

After a thorough review of crime scene evidence, as well as the evaluation of multiple interviews, Landry has been booked with Attempted Second Degree Murder.

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